Visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories
MIDDLE EAST/FRANCE/CONFERENCE PROPOSAL
Q. – You came with an invitation which you delivered to the various interlocutors you met. Did you receive a categorical no from anyone right from the start?
THE MINISTER – No, on the contrary, I’ve just told you that I was listened to attentively, that I delivered this proposal in writing and am awaiting the final replies and reactions following our discussions. Everyone expressed their points of view, but unless I missed something, I didn’t hear a “no”. (…)
Q. – Demonstrations are planned on Sunday in Lebanon and Syria, towards the Israeli border. The Lebanese have already taken measures on their border; would you advise Syria to do the same?
THE MINISTER – We would advise every kind of restraint, generally, but once again this is proof that the status quo won’t be tenable and that the current situation will be harder and harder to put up with. This, from my point of view, is another reason for paying attention to the proposal we’re making.
Q. – You said that the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah could be a positive thing. Since this rapprochement, have you detected any change in Hamas’s attitude as regards recognizing the State of Israel, given that Hamas was one of the few official groups to condemn the elimination of Bin Laden?
THE MINISTER – I haven’t yet sensed this change, but I hope it will come about. I said earlier that I didn’t want to go back over the history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but I’m nevertheless going to do so. It seems to me that there was a time when Israel refused to talk to Arafat because he hadn’t recognized the existence of the State of Israel. Everything in history and life moves on, and at any rate I have a deep-seated belief, which is that you never make peace with your friends. What I mean is that if you want to make peace, it isn’t your friends you’ve got to talk to, it’s your enemies. You make peace with enemies, under certain conditions, of course – that goes without saying – and we reiterated these.
Q. – What makes you think that your invitation has a chance of being accepted when we know the yawning gap separating the parties today?
THE MINISTER – My natural optimism. What I mean is that because of a number of new factors there’s a widely shared belief that things now have to move: President Obama’s proposals, the consensus of the Europeans, the consensus of the Quartet, too, I believe, even though today it still hasn’t officially said this… So is this a reason to be very optimistic? I’d be lying if I said I’m very optimistic – I’m a little optimistic.
PALESTINIAN STATE/UN VOTE
Q. – How will France vote if the Palestinian Authority calls for recognition of the Palestinian state in September?
THE MINISTER – We’ll vote in the light of what happens in the coming months. If a negotiation process begins, it completely changes the scenario, and from that viewpoint the problem of recognition shouldn’t arise for us in September. If nothing happens, well, as I told President Sarkozy, we’ll shoulder our responsibilities. I know this answer will frustrate you, but I won’t go beyond that today.
Q. – You’ve said on this very question that recognition of the Palestinian state is the least best solution for us…
THE MINISTER – No, I said reaching September with the status quo is the least best solution. Why? Because there’ll be a vote of the United Nations General Assembly. Will this vote lead to recognition of the Palestinian state? I can’t prejudge that, but if it were the case I don’t think it would be good for anyone. Not for the United States President, because people won’t be able to say his involvement had been very effective. Not for the Europeans, whose unity would unfortunately risk being compromised. Not for the Palestinians, because what would happen the next day? It won’t really change the reality of daily life in the Palestinian territories. And not for Israel, who will become a little more isolated and face a situation that’s harder to sustain politically and morally. That’s why it strikes me that we must avoid getting to that stage, and that the only way of avoiding getting to that stage is what we’re proposing: namely to get back around the table.
Q. – How could you – France and Europe – be more effective than President Obama?
THE MINISTER – By all applying ourselves to it together, with them. It’s clear the Americans alone aren’t succeeding; well, the Americans plus the Europeans have an extra chance. (…)
Q. – Just now, Noam Shalit asked you for France to get a little more involved to secure the release [of his son, Gilad Shalit] and in particular to become a mediator. Are you going to agree?
THE MINISTER – We’re ready to get more involved; we’re already doing a lot. President Sarkozy has made his position very clear. He got the G8 in Deauville to mention the situation of Gilad Shalit and condemn his detention. We secured the same thing at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. We’re galvanizing all our allies to exert pressure to this end. We told President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday and Prime Minister Fayyad this morning how committed we are to resolving this case, this unacceptable detention. I also repeated it to Prime Minister Netanyahu. We’re constantly taking steps and stepping up the pressure in this regard. I made it clear to our Palestinian friends that Gilad Shalit’s release would signal a positive step by Hamas in the right direction, the one I mentioned just now.
Q. – Why haven’t you been to Gaza, unlike Michèle Alliot-Marie at the beginning of the year? Is it a visit you’re considering?
THE MINISTER – It’s entirely possible; as you know, diary constraints are what they are. As I’ve told you, I met the Palestinian Prime Minister this morning. Above all, I spent a good hour at the Franco-German Cultural Centre talking to young Palestinians, and I can tell you they don’t mince their words. They told me what was on their minds, and it was a very powerful discussion. I felt the huge frustration they’re currently experiencing, and their impatience. I think this reinforced my view that the status quo is impossible and will most probably lead to an increase in tension, which won’t be good for anyone.
Q. – A new flotilla is planned at the end of June. What’s France’s position?
THE MINISTER – It’s a very bad idea, which, once again, can only heighten the tension and create a source of conflict. So we strongly advise the French organizations not to take part in it. Having said that, we’re in a democracy; France doesn’t have the means to stop boats at sea when she doesn’t have legal jurisdiction. I repeat, we think it would be a very bad signal. (…)./.